Six years ago, Diane Duane started to ask her readers if they'd be willing to subsidize her next book through subscriptions as she wrote it. Things went great for a while, and then they didn't. Diane's health, circumstances, and life went through a long, bumpy patch and her book went off the rails.
Now she's finished it, and put it online with a long and heartfelt apology to the readers who'd backed her.
This is an important — and underreported — problem with "micropatronage" and "street performer protocol"-style artistic experiments. Writers are often late with their books. Sometimes they're so late that the books are given up for dead (I was once contracted to write a book called /usr/bin/god, which died on the vine after 80,000 words, so I started writing Makers, which also stalled, so I wrote Little Brother, which gave me the insights I needed to finish Makers, which my publisher accepted in place of /usr/bin/god, and that's how this stuff goes sometimes). When that happens, hardcore fans — the kind who pay attention to the things authors say about upcoming books in press interview — are sometimes let down, but mostly, it's a private matter between the author, her agent, and the publisher.
This is normal, and we know how to deal with it in the world of traditional publishing. But in the world of public writing-as-performance where there are hundreds or possibly thousands of people with a financial stake in the book — people who aren't editors at a house with 400 books under contract, but rather people who've never been around a book during its creation — it gets really difficult and sticky.
I have a lot of sympathy for Diane here. Boing Boing readers have written to me periodically over the years to ask if I knew what was happening, and Diane always seemed to be working hard, amid a lot of hardship. But I have sympathy for the readers, too — who donated in good faith and didn't know what to make of what had happened to their money.
We're going to see a lot of this in the future, as more writers try this kind of experiment. Off the rails is the normal state for most books, and readers rarely get to hang around the sausage factory watching the ugly production cycle.
First of all: how to get at the final chapters of the book. Everyone will have been mailed a username and password at subscription time. There has been a change to the passwords that originally went out, as the YoungWizards.com hosting provider has changed its password protocols slightly. Emails will be going out to you soon to clarify the change: or if you're in a rush, use the contact form at the-big-meow.com to get in touch with staff, who will mail back the new info to you.
Once the subscribers have seen the material, in line with the way we've always done it on this book, all the final material will go "free range" at the the-big-meow.com website for anyone to look at. This will happen ten days from now, on Feb. 12th.
After that, before it goes between covers, the book has to undergo a professional edit. I have the good fortune to have worked with a number of excellent freelance editors over the years, and I'll be contacting one of these shortly to hire him/her and sort out schedules and so forth. It would be unwise to assume that this process would take less than a few months.
Once the edit is handled, the new draft of the book will go out to the subscribers again – this time in a single file package. (Yes, we'll be doing it as an ebook in multiple formats, as well as hard copies, for those who want them. There'll also be an omnibus ebook of all three of the FW novels, but that's something to think about later.) Once the revised draft is out, it becomes time to go to print. Over the spring I'll be looking into what artist will have the time (and affordability) to get involved in a cover – ideally a wraparound, to make the best of the dust jacket that will go with the hardcovers.